PARIS – After the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead, I wrote a commentary entitled “We Are At War” – and faced considerable criticism from readers, Europeans and non-Europeans alike. How dare I use the word “war” to describe the attacks! Words are weapons, and misusing them is irresponsible, even dangerous. Had I not learned anything from George W. Bush’s jingoism?
In fact, I knew exactly what I was doing when I chose that word. And last week, when Brussels faced a terrorist attack on its airport and a metro station, the emergency services personnel chose the same word, calling for the treating of “war wounds.” So I will say it again: We are at war.
Of course, it is not a traditional war. No formal declaration of hostilities was made; but the attacks on Paris and Brussels were acts of war – deliberate and brutal maneuvers planned by a group of people controlling a large chunk of territory.
These acts targeted not just Europe’s people, but also its fundamental values, and they are part of a broader pattern of aggression that will not simply fade away. Indeed, though the Islamic State’s territory may be shrinking in Syria and Iraq, it is expanding in Libya. And who knows which countries ISIS may seize tomorrow? Parts of Algeria, for example, could be vulnerable.